Montreal

Montrealer's 'Queering the Map' project documents queer experiences all over the world

A flood of new submissions came after Ismail Jan, a Pakistani TikToker who now lives in London, wanted to share stories of queer people in his home country.

After being shared in a viral TikTok, the site has tens of thousands of new stories

Each black pinpoint on this pink map represents a queer experience submitted by a reader. (queeringthemap.com)

On a pink shaded map, black pins document queer experiences — not just in Montreal but across the globe.

It's a project called Queering the Map, created by Montrealer Lucas LaRochelle in 2017. It allows anyone to anonymously add a submission, with the goal of archiving LGBTQ2IA+ experiences and proving that such experiences aren't confined to certain physical locations.

"It's gone viral a couple of times," said LaRochelle, in an interview with CBC Montreal's Let's Go host Sabrina Marandola.

"However, never to this unbelievable extent. So my life has looked a lot like reading through and moderating some of the 40,000 new submissions to the platform."

Since the website was shared in a viral TikTok last month, Queering the Map has received over 250,000 visitors.

It was all after Ismail Jan, a Pakistani TikToker who now lives in London, wanted to share stories of queer people in his home country.

"I immediately looked up Pakistan and I was blown away by the number of messages that had been left behind by queer people," said Jan.

He says that many of the locations pinned on the map were places he had visited with his family.

With same-sex activity not only looked down upon but also illegal in Pakistan, Jan said he wanted to help amplify these stories.

"Being queer can often be quite a lonely experience, being a person of colour and queer can be even lonelier," he said. "So I think knowing that there are people who are just like me with the same background, same culture … it made me feel less lonely."

LaRochelle said a lot of the stories on Queering the Map show that queerness is a communal experience, even for those whose community isn't physically close to them.

"Digital tools like maps facilitate or can help facilitate a sense of kinship, a sense of belonging that's beyond what physical space can provide," said LaRochelle.

How it works

Once you head to the site, you simply drop a pin in a location of your choice, and then write up a blurb of a queer experience you want linked to that location.

"That can be and has been on the map anything from someone's first kiss to an experience of homophobic or transphobic violence," said LaRochelle. "So it really runs the gamut in terms of content."

From there, the submission is sent for approval by the moderators, which include LaRochelle and a team of volunteers. They screen the submissions for hate speech, spam or breaches of anonymity, all to ensure the site remains a safe space for those who visit and contribute.

Lucas LaRochelle said they created Queering the Map in 2017 to help connect with their community. Since then, it has seen contributions from around the world. (Submitted by Lucas LaRochelle)

LaRochelle says they first created Queering the Map out of a hunger to connect with their own community.

"One of the impulses was really wanting to hear more queer and trans stories by queer and trans people," said LaRochelle. "Anything from the banal to the fantastic and everything in between."

LaRochelle says moderating these stories can be an emotional roller-coaster. But in the end, it's all worth it to give these voices a communal platform.

"It's a role that I take incredibly seriously," LaRochelle said. "I feel incredibly grateful to be able to steward these incredible, incredible stories."

Queering the map, bit by bit… We’ll chat with the Montrealer behind a website that has gone viral in the past week among the LGBTQ community!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shahroze Rauf

Journalist

Shahroze Rauf is a journalist based in Montreal, originally from Toronto. You can contact him at Shahroze.Rauf@cbc.ca for tips and story ideas.

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